With just 2 more shopping days until Christmas to buy that special gift for Aunt Mary or cousin Jimmy, shopping malls, strip malls (and anywhere else that happens to sell anything of interest) will be packed full of last-minute shoppers. Some full of holiday cheer, others testy from all the aggravation trying to find a parking space at the mall, or having someone steal the last space that was rightfully theirs. But it's not just the bah humbugness of certain scroogy types that can ruin the holiday spirit. Certain other individuals, full of malicious intent, found lurking amongst the joyful and harried shoppers can cause tremendous amounts of grief. I'm talking about those miscreants that want what's yours and will do whatever it takes to get it. They take advantage of the holidays when people are distracted and out in larger numbers- more targets to choose from.
On December 12, at an upscale mall in Boca Raton, Florida, one of those evildoers killed a mother and her 7 year-old daughter. They were found by a security guard, a little after midnight, in their idling SUV. They had been bound and shot in the head, and goggles had been placed over the mother's eyes. Apparently, at some point during the robbery, they had been forced to take out money from an ATM. There was a similar occurrence, at the same mall, this past August. A young mother and her toddler were also abducted and forced to withdraw money from an ATM. When they were returned to the parking lot at the mall, the mother too was bound and goggled, although they were fortunate enough to have their lives spared. Authorities believe the similarities point to the same perp, and he's still at large.
Not that one should live in fear, but one should definitely be vigilant when shopping, and not just during the holiday season. There is more crime that occurs at shopping centers than mall owners are willing to admit. However, there are some things one can do to make one's shopping experience safer. Besides leaving all your expensive jewelry at home:
1. Lock the doors when you leave your car to go shopping.
2. Park in well-lit areas and close to busy entrances. Note: most abductions, rapes etc. (even during daylight hours) usually occur in covered parking areas.
3. Leave all packages and valuables in the trunk of your car. Visible packages can tempt thieves.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. Walk confidently, and briskly. If you notice someone suspicious-looking, take note of what they look like and what they are wearing. They will less likely harm you if they know you noticed them.
5. Avoid distractions, like talking on a cell phone or trying to calm down your children.
6. Hang on tightly to your purse. If it has a strap, place it over your head and position it so the strap is on one shoulder and the purse on the other side of your body.
7. Keep prying eyes from your credit card number, and place the receipt in your purse.
8. If it's late and you feel unsafe, ask mall security to accompany you to your car.
9. Keep your car keys in your hand and ready to open the door. Check around and under the car before you enter, to make sure no-one is lurking. If there is, run don't walk back to the mall. When inside your car, immediately lock the doors.
Not all crimes occur at the place of purchase. Many times, criminals will follow you back to your house and rob you there, so make sure you're vigilant when driving home.
10. If you think someone is following you, drive to the nearest police station, or stop somewhere there's a crowd, like a gas station or convenience store, where you can get help.
With just a few precautions you can make your shopping outings safe.
Happy holidays to all.